Clownfish reproduce by laying eggs. They breed all year long and spawn during the full moon in the wild. Depending on age and species, female clownfish lay around 100 to 1000 eggs that the males fertilize externally. Favorable tank conditions coupled with a nutritious diet are critical for their breeding.
Clownfish breeding needs adequate care and attention.
However, with little effort, you can enjoy watching your baby clownfish grow up.
So, let’s understand in detail how clownfish reproduce.
When Do Clownfish Breed in The Wild?
Clownfish breed all year long in their natural habitat. It takes around 1.5 to 2 years for clownfish to become mature.
In the wild, a strict dominance hierarchy is formed in each group.
The female clownfish is the highest, followed by her male partner.
They usually breed as per the cycles of the moon. Spawning usually occurs at the time of the full moon.
Clownfish are believed to breed during these times so that the hatching coincides with the high tides.
It allows the hatchlings to escape from the predators as the tides sweep them away.
How Do Clownfish Mate to Reproduce?
Clownfish have a unique mating ritual. In the wild, clownfish usually mate in shallow waters on coral reefs.
In a home aquarium, you will notice unusual behavior in your clownfish during the mating process.
The bonded pair will swim near each other, and sometimes they may even swim upside down.
The male clownfish will swim toward the female and start circling her or puff out his cheeks to create a bubble.
He will dance around and flare his fins while trying to lead his female partner into the nest.
The female clownfish may bite to assert dominance over her partner in approval.
If you observe such behavior in your captive clownfish pair, they’re likely mating.
How to Determine if Clownfish Is Ready to Lay Eggs?
Clownfish are oviparous, meaning the females lay eggs that are fertilized by males externally.
The female clownfish shows signs to indicate that she is about to lay eggs.
You can closely watch her physical appearance and behavior to determine if the spawning cycle is near.
Given below are the signs that your clownfish is about to spawn.
1. Large Abdomen
One of the first signs of the start of the egg-laying process is an increase or swelling in the abdominal mid-section of your clownfish.
This happens when the female prepares for reproduction.
You can notice her belly becoming large due to the enlargement of the egg-producing organ.
But this sign is insufficient as it can also be due to stress or illness.
Therefore, you should look for other signs as well.
2. Tube-Like Protrusion
You can also notice other changes in the bodies of your clownfish apart from the increase in the size of the abdomen.
The male and female clownfish will have tube-like protrusions on their bodies.
These protrusions are the mating organs necessary for the breeding process.
These tubes help during spawning and sperm fertilization.
Clownfish are usually calm. However, the female clownfish can become aggressive while she produces eggs.
The female clownfish will be very protective and won’t allow other tankmates to come near her.
She may bite them or even chase them away.
This aggression is only temporary to ensure she has a safe place for spawning.
4. Nest Building
Another indication that your clownfish is about to spawn is the building of a nest.
The female clownfish will find a suitable place in the aquarium to lay her eggs.
The place selected is usually a hard and smooth surface at the bottom of the aquarium.
The male clownfish will help by cleaning the area and digging burrows in the gravel.
The pair protect the nest until the eggs hatch.
5. Less Activity
Clownfish are active fish that like to explore their surroundings.
However, the female clownfish becomes less active when she is about to lay eggs.
You can observe her resting near the nest most of the time. It may be to conserve the energy for the upcoming spawning process.
How to Breed Clownfish in Captivity?
Breeding clownfish isn’t challenging compared to other marine aquarium fish like tangs.
However, you must carefully set up a conducive environment to initiate breeding.
You can house a group of young fish to form a pair. However, it can take time for the pair to form.
The second option is that you can purchase a bonded clownfish pair from the aquarium store.
Many pet stores sell mated pairs for breeding purposes.
Given below are the steps to breed clownfish at home.
1. Set up A Breeding Tank
Once your clownfish have formed a pair, the next and most crucial step is setting up an ideal breeding tank.
Setting up a separate tank is recommended, as you can set the water parameters according to the needs of the breeding pair.
The water temperature of the breeding tank needs to be raised to 83°F to initiate breeding.
Also, the water needs to be clean and free of any impurities.
Live rocks are essential as they give the tank a natural look and provide a hiding and resting place for the fish.
They also provide a surface on which your female clownfish can lay her eggs.
Lighting needs to be adequate but not very bright.
The filtration system shouldn’t be too strong as strong currents can disturb the breeding process.
You can also place an anemone in the tank to make clownfish feel comfortable. However, it’s not mandatory.
2. Condition the Pair
Diet plays a vital role in the breeding process. You need to condition the fish so that the pair can produce healthy eggs.
Feed them live food such as brine shrimp, mysis shrimp, earthworms, blackworms, mosquito larvae, etc.
Similarly, frozen and other high-quality commercial foods such as marine fish pellets are healthy for clownfish.
You can increase the feeding frequency to at least 3 to 5 times daily as they need a more nutritious diet during breeding.
Also, remember to remove any uneaten food immediately to avoid water contamination.
3. Monitor the Spawning Process
After the mating ritual, the female clownfish produces eggs and is ready to spawn.
The female clownfish spawns after around 5 days of mating.
A female clownfish can lay around 100 to 1000 eggs in a single spawning, depending upon the species, age, and health.
Larger species, such as maroon clownfish, usually lay more than 1000 eggs.
On average, the clownfish pair produces 400 to 500 eggs.
The spawning process may take a couple of hours. The eggs are tiny and orange in color.
The male clownfish then swims over the eggs to fertilize them.
Not all eggs hatch as some perish due to fungal infection or lack of oxygen.
Both the parent show parental instincts and guard the eggs until they hatch.
It takes around 6 to 8 days for the eggs to hatch, after which free-swimming larvae emerge.
The filters must be immediately switched off after the hatching to prevent the larvae from getting filtered through the filter.
The male clownfish can then be transferred to the main tank, while the female clownfish takes care of the young ones.
4. Feed the Fry
Clownfish babies need adequate care and a nutritious diet for optimal growth. They need food as soon as they hatch.
Initially, while the fry are small, you can feed them rotifers for the first week.
Rotifers are plankton specifically used for feeding hatchlings. They’re readily available in many pet stores.
The food you feed your clownfish fry will change as they develop.
After about 7 to 10 days, you can start feeding them small brine shrimp.
Brine shrimp are an excellent source of protein and can help in the faster development of your fish.
Powdered fish flakes can also be fed to give them additional nutrition.
Once the fry grow, you can transfer them to the main tank.